The wife of West Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell pleaded guilty this afternoon to counts involving the performing of illegal late-term abortions at his Women's Medical Society clinic.

Pearl Gosnell, 50, pleaded guilty to the four counts she was charged with in January after a county grand jury recommended criminal charges against her husband and eight employees of the clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave.

In a barely audible voice, Gosnell answered "guilty" four times to the charges of participating in an illegal late-term abortion, two counts of conspiracy and being part of a corrupt organization.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner set sentencing for Feb. 15 and warned Gosnell she faces up to 54 years in prison based on her guilty plea though the judge said her actual sentence would not be "nearly that long." Lerner also said it was unlikely Gosnell and six others who have pleaded guilty in the case would actually be sentenced until after the trial of Kermit Gosnell and two employees, tentatively set for early 2013.

Defense attorney F. Michael Medway said he was restricted from commenting by a gag order but confirmed that, unlike the others who have pleaded guilty, Gosnell would not testify against her husband at trial.

Under the law, Gosnell has an absolute spousal privilege against testifying against her husband unless he would waive the privilege.

Outlining the factual basis for the plea, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore noted that according to the grand jury report and presentment, witnesses testified that Gosnell assisted her husband in illegal-late term abortions that were performed on Sundays, when others employees were not at the clinic.

The Gosnells and eight employees were accused of operating what the grand jury called a "charnel house" in which late-term pregnancies were illegally ended and where live births were killed by having their spinal cords severed with scissors.

Kermit Gosnell is charged with first-degree murder and faces the possibility of the death penalty if found guilty by a jury. The grand jury report accused him of causing the 2009 death of a Virginia woman undergoing an abortion and with killing infants born live and viable.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.